MADRID—More than half a million illegal clandestine immigrants in Spain could receive official papers legalising their position if they have a work contract under a new Socialist government scheme, union officials said Tuesday.
Between 800,000 and a million foreigners, mainly Latin Americans and North Africans, live as immigrants in Spain without proper registration, according to the union confederation the CCOO and UGT labour union.
The two organisations said at least half a million were working in the so-called black economy of unregulated labour, without official papers.
If they produce papers documenting their employment, they will be able to benefit from a programme of social integration of immigrants that the government will introduce next month, said Jesus Perez of the UGT executive.
The unions welcomed the government initiative because it “deals with immigration from the viewpoint of the labour market and not as previously from a political or security viewpoint,” said Perez.
“It’s a means of attacking the parallel (black) economy which represents 20 percent of the gross domestic product in Spain,” said CCOO immigration official Julio Ruiz.
Junior immigration minister Consuelo Rumi said Sunday the government would regularise the situation of all clandestine immigrants who can show they have a valid work contract.
“Just a promise of work won’t be enough,” she insisted.
As part of a broad plan to be launched next month, the government will also issue residence papers for immigrants who blow the whistle on unscrupulous employers—those who employ immigrants without a work contract, Madrid’s El Pais newspaper reported.
“It is about easing the social integration of foreigners” but also about combatting the black market in immigrant labour, Rumi said.
Rumi promised the government would be forbearing to employers who put their employees on a legal footing.
For others, “sanctions will be tougher and inspections will be increased,” she warned.
But non-governmental organisations were sceptical. The government was “ingenuous in leaving regularisation of employees without proper papers to employers who have previously committed an offence in employing them without a contract,” said Diego Lorente, spokesman of the NGO SOS Racism.
Spain is one of the main gateways to Europe of clandestine immigrants.
According to official figures, 23 percent who make it to Europe come in through Spain.
Thousands risk the hazards of the sea each year trying to get into Spain from Morocco or sub-Saharan Africa in frail open boats across the Strait of Gibraltar or via Spain’s Canary Islands.
Eight-one have so far perished at sea this year in the attempt.